A Talk with Leonie Langa
Flashmag this month make a trip to Africa to meet a pure musical delight. former member of the Cameroonian music Group Macase LeonieLanga after her university studies decided to devote herself exclusively to music; will follow musical encounters that will influence her musical career towards the genre folk, Afro jazz, in a prime time interview, Leonie Langa discussed with our Reporter in Africa, Roland Abina, about her career and her new single Africa Tema singleprelude to her first solo album.
Flashmag: Hello Leonie Langa Flashmag and its readership are happy to have you as a guest of the cultural page of the avant-garde magazine. Musician of avant-garde youare as well, while listening to your single the sound is out of the ordinary. Also to start from the beginning why did you choose to make music when it’s well known that easily you could do something else regarding your academic career? Leonie Langa: Well it is true that in general being an artist is not perceived or recognized at fair value, but for me it's a job like any other, and what's more it’s that, it’s fairly delicate since the creation of an artist is perpetually subject to the judgment of connoisseur or lay public. And this is very risky, because everything is random; nothing guarantees success. I chose the music because it’s through music that I feel accomplished fully; it represents the universe in which I can express myself freely, causing others to feel good around me. Through music we can achieve many things if only one is engaged, love it and believe in it. Flashmag: was it easy to convince your family of your choice? Leonie Langa: Well, initially, when I was able to follow music and studies, there were no worries; difficulty arose when I decided to do the music only; for my family it was a bad decision, a wrong direction; insofar as it was expected that I will be looking for a job in human resources I studied; Moreover, being from a modest family, eyes were on me and my two siblings (one girl and one boy) in terms of hopes to honor our family. My choice was putting me in a lost position and my elders never lose any opportunity to ask me to change my mind. But today they all support me and wish the success of my career, when they listen and see what I can do. The fact is that the music has always been in me, and I've never felt comfortable anywhere else but on a stage, or when working in what is art (dance, singing, writing, etc ...) at first, under the guidance of my mother, I had to balance both and make sure I have at least a bachelor degree level, to dare getting into music professionally. I admit I had no intent to abandon my studies, but I realized that the music is "jealous"; to produce something good, it takes a lot of work, that is to say, one has to devote a lot of time, even all the time. This choice was not easy given the positions of each other in my family, but I had to force myself and today I say I do not regret it at all Flashmag: In your biography we read that you have university degrees, in what area? Leonie Langa: I have a degree in French-speaking literature and an MA in Human Resource Management. This year I am back on the benches for Master in Performing Arts at the University of Yaoundé 1, to strengthen my artistic knowledge and study the very foundations of art in general and the theatricality of the scene. Flashmag: In 2008 you won the contest "Star of Tomorrow" then you began to make a musical career, I would say more focused on learning the ropes of artistry, includingworking with the group Macase before being discovered by Manu Dibango with whom you did several scenes, as a vocalist, what represent that period for you? Leonie Langa: First, I would like to correct a couple of things: after “Stars of tomorrow”, I spent two and a half years before fallingan evening on daddy Manu and Andre Manga, his former conductor. They listened to me and valued my performance and it’s André Manga who directed me to Serge Maboma of the Macase group, which in turn made me an audition, at the end of which I am selected to be part of the "Three virgins of Macase ". And it is in this movement that I had the privilege of doing scenes with monuments of the Cameroon music such as Manu Dibango, Andre Manga, Armand Sabal Lecco, Sally Nyollo, Donny Elwood, Sam Fan Thomas and I many others ... This period was for me a very great school, because I have learned what it is to be professional, while observing, listening to their advice too. And I think that such luck is just priceless ... Flashmag: Artistically speaking who are the artists who most influenced the artist you are today? Leonie Langa: My influences are extended I’ll say; to name but a few, I'll talk about Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald and Celine Dion, who helped me a lot in developing my vocal potential. Also, when I wanted to find out my Africanness or the African touch in my vocal expression, I worked with Miriam Makeba, Angelique Kidjo, Bobby McFerrin, Lady Smith Black Mabanzo, Khadja Nin, Rokia Traoré and many more... Besides that, it is a lot of listening to what others are doing, whatever the style. In this regard, I am very greedy you know ... Flashmag: you based your craftin the Afro Jazz a term that makes me wince because the Jazz is African already at the root, why purists of your kind classify your type of music Afro Jazz? Is it a way of conceptualizing the type, or a way to say, the jazz done by Africans? Leonie Langa: Again I have to adjust a little bit ... I'm not doing solely afro jazz ... basically, let’s say that in the single "Africa Tema," you have this fine fusion of African rhythms and jazz but I define myself as an artist open to different styles, so I would classify more easily in music research, because I'm unpredictable. In a way you could have world music; in another it might be folklore or Afro jazz! This also comes from the fact that in the songs I write, it is on the feeling, and not about thinking first of how it will sound, jazz, folk or whatever ... and it is in the arrangements that the colors are shaped and I let myself go. For me, the artist should not be too rigid. Flashmag: the music research and Jazz music which remains a genre for insiders, benefits of a very good network of festivals that help it stay alive, nonetheless main broadcast on medias remain very timid if not on specialized programs, aren’t you afraid of the lack media exposure with the genres in which you chose to make your career? Leonie Langa: Taking into account what I said previously, everything that is about new music a research is a little bit cleared of the most popular media, which is a shame indeed ... but I do not think I can give pleasure to others if I do not take pleasure myself in what I do; Besides that, there is a difference between being an artist and being a star. The star wants to be known more as possible, plays everywhere and in all walks of life, whilst the artist wants to first give sense to what he (she) does, and thus contribute more to the fabric of the society at his (her) level. Flashmag: you just put out inthe bins a single titled Africa Tema, a song in which you are urging Africa to rise and grow, what inspired you this song how it was composed, what is its history? Leonie Langa: I started writing Africa Tema ... in 2002, when the war in Ivory Coast broke out. I was enraged to see such a beautiful country fall into ruin, a country I have always admired in Africa and at the same time, and at the same time arose the problem of intellectuals who thought only about leaving Cameroon to establish themselves in the west, due to the lack of job opportunities and even the deterioration of living conditions in the country. But Africa had not yet recovered from the different wars it had been through for some years ago, like the warin Somalia that began in 1991, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and all that instability our continent was facing. Well, over the years, It changed very little, because we are almost in the same situations; but I did not want it to be a sad song, but a message of hope, a motivation for Africans to unite to build a better future, an exhortation to realize the wealth that we have both in terms of inner and cultural values, as in terms of natural resources. I'm in love with my beautiful Africa and see her shine is my dearest dream, because she deserves it fully. Flashmag: you singin French, English and in another vernacular African language spoken in eastern Cameroon, You thought your message would be better spend using these different languages, or you simply feel more comfortable to sing while using these languages in the aesthetic point of view? Leonie Langa: Well if I used these three languages, it’s firstly to make myself understood by everyone throughout the world , because I wanted to get a message across, I had to be versatile in that level to achieve my goal; on the other hand, I could sing essentially in "Kako", since this is my maternal tongue As an African, and write the translation (subtitling) ... but not only do I think the effect would not the same, but I had to assert myself as a citizen of the world, like many around me are. Flashmag: you are a newartist on the spot as you are starting your solo career what are the goals you set for yourself? Leonie Langa: One of my priorities is to bring new life to the Cameroonian music that unfortunately is slammed and appears to be off, show to seniors that young people can take over and that there is hope; Finally, I want to be one of thoseartists who carry high the image of our beloved Cameroon and Africa in our beautiful world. And I hope with all my heart to get there, despite all the obstacles that I encounter along the way. Flashmag: Knowingthat to work as an artist in Africa is sometimes a thankless task, to the extent that the market in terms of record sales is narrow with the rampant piracy, would you consider yourself one day emigrate to other heavens (Europe, America ...) where it’s warmer for artists, like it was done by Blik Bassy another singer former band member of Macase group who made his legacy by blending the style (Afro jazz) acquired in Macase to other sounds in the world, and is now better recognized nationally and internationally ? LeonieLanga:If the opportunity presents itself, so I will not hesitate; I'm still fond of international festivals. Flashmag: you'reworking on your next album, this single is a prelude to the first game, and can we have some indiscretions on the content of the next album? Leonie Langa: Well, for the record ... I prefer to surprise you, so let me leave you to your thirst!!! Flashmag: as we are closing this talk doyou have a special word to the public? what's your agenda for the near future? Leonie Langa: I would like especially to send an infinite thank to all those people who support me and love what I do. It's very motivating to receive a small motivational message from time to time; it feeds me, and having a new fan and more each day is a small victory for me, so thank you. Furthermore, I hope that the culture in our country will be a little taken seriously, as those who are struggling to properly represent the country through their art will be considered at their fair value; because there is talent in Cameroon, but not too many opportunities for hatching. Thank you Flashmag: Léonie Langa Flashmag and its readership thank you for this interview.
Video AFRICA TEMA
Interview Realized by Roland Abina at Yaoundé.